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What books would you recommend?

jatman | Posted in General Discussion on

I was wondering what books on sewing, fitting and embellishing would anyone out there recommend?  I’m an intermediate sewer with some time on my hands and am looking to upgrade my skills through books.  Any suggestions?



  1. User avater
    melanie56 | | #1

    I highly recommend the sandra betzina books for improving your skills. They are all very good and well illustrated.

  2. ValerieJ | | #2

    I like Nancy Zieman's Sew Easy Embellishments. Lots of good ideas, many of which are not difficult to do.

    1. sewcrazy_mn | | #18

      Looks like the Nancy Zieman embellishment book is available on http://www.edwardrhamilton.com for 3.95 plus shipping (3.50 flat rate, they ship to the US only). ~Lori in MN

  3. user-1123855664 | | #3

    Here are my favorites:

    Linen and Cotton: Classic Sewing Techniques for Great Results by Susan Khalje.

    Easy Guide to Sewing Blouses by Connie Long

    If you have a Serger, I'd recommend:

    Easy Guide to Serging Fine Fabrics (Easy Guide)  by
    Benton, Kitty

    1. jatman | | #4

      Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.  I live outside of the US and have a hard time finding a whole lot of books in English - especially how-to books.  I know someone else who is moving over here and they have kindly allowed me to have some things shipped to them for moving over here.  So, I guess my question is: if you had to pack one box of sewing, fitting, embellishing, etc. books to take with you somewhere - which ones would they be?  I have about two weeks before I have to place my Amazon.com order!  So, please keep the suggestions coming!


      1. JanF | | #5

        How to get everything into 1 book?

        Slightly impossible I would think. I have a good book called Needlework School ISBN = 1-86282-054-6 which deals with basics(quite creatively) Contents = Designing with stitches, Looking at fabrics, Designing, Stitches on evenweave, altering the surface[cutwork, pleats,tucks and folds, smocking, quilting and stumpwork), Applique, Patchwork,Whitework,Metal thread, Machine Embroidery, Fastenings and finishings, Themes and development [painted textiles, marbling fabric, designing with lettering, felt and paper making] and practical hints on mounting/framing work, enlarging designs, covering frames etc. glossary and where to look for inspiration pages (sorry these mainly in UK)

        It gives you enough info to get ahead with any one of the above skills - but I don't think any 1 book will give you detailed info and lots of skills in such depth as you would like in 1 book.

        Obviously no dressmaking skills there either - that's 'cos Ive yet to find a good enough book covering skills except for school textbooks which can be quite outdated in their language/illustrations and someone else probably might be able to better advise for this.

        Hope this helps - Janet


        1. jatman | | #6

          Thank you for the suggestion.  Can you tell me the author?  I cannot seem to find it on Amazon with that title or ISBN.

          Also, I know I will never find one book with everything in it.  I'm looking at buying a box of books to have shipped to where I live.  Hoping to get a range of books and authors.



          1. JanF | | #7

            Hi - its actually got on the front that it is "a comprehensive guide to decorative embroidery by The Embroiderers' Guild Practical Study Group - sounds posh doesn't it!

            Inside the front cover( its a PAR production so it says) and is a "Quarto Book" and the authors are Muriel Best, Vicky Lugg and Dorothy Tucker and 1st. published in Australia in 1982 (I bought it in '91)

            but it doesn't give you any other info - If you like i'll google here to see if the local Borders can get it and send you another message!


          2. JanF | | #8

            Oh dear - might just be out of print?

            I notice that a book by 2 of the authors "Needlework School by Muriel best and Vicky Lugg at £9 50 ISBN 0711203873 is available - but its published the year before mine and I wouldn't like to say it was the same! I'll keep trying for you cos sometimes school publishers have copies - perhaps at £9 5o it might be ok - cos my copy has the price tag still in it of$24.95 and I bought it from a craft centre locally!

            Possibly try Quarto Publishing?


          3. jatman | | #9

            Wow.  Thank you Janet.  I'll see what I can find.  I have a couple of weeks before I make a big order.  I'm hoping to be able to find one company and order a bunch of books from them in one shipment.  I'll look around for that one, but thank you for doing all of that work for me!


          4. GreenApple | | #12

            Is your book order coming from the US to the US before it gets brought to you? If so, then you might want to order from Powell's as well as Amazon - Powell's has a wonderful stock of used books, so it would be easier to get the out-of-print books.I'm a used-to-be intermediate sewer who keeps stopping and starting and losing and regaining skill, just so you know who's recommending these.If I ignore in versus out of print, I'd recommend:_The Weekend Sewer's Guide To Dresses_, for inspiration and ideas for tweaking patterns to be just what you want. All of the Weekend Sewer's guides (there are three, or maybe more) are good, but I like Dresses best.I just bought _Fast Fit_ by Sandra Betzina, for fitting information, and it looks pretty good. (I haven't used it yet, but I've browsed it pretty thoroughly.)I like Susan Khalje's _Linen and Cotton_. Her _Bridal Couture_ is also good, but I don't sew anything that grand.Claire Schaeffer's _Couture Sewing Techniques_ is fascinating.David Cotton's _Shirtmaking_ is pretty spiffy, too._Sewing The New Classics_ by Carol Parks is good for inspiration, again, though the actual styles may be a bit dated since i's from the mid-90's. (They don't actually look dated to me, but that may mean that I'm getting old. :))GreenApple

            Edited 7/16/2006 4:07 pm ET by GreenApple

          5. JanF | | #13

            I agree - The Bridal Couture by Khalje is good - haven't seen any others of hers!

            Will try the others for myself - but I'm disappointed I can't seem to source the one I recommended - but will try your place for out of print books - Thanks.

            No doubt your bookcases are like mine - full of books on every sort of textile skill - I would hate to count up how much I've spent on books over the years! In fact I have to keep buying new bookcases to house them all - luckily where I live I am only 45mins away from a brilliant IKEA and my husband has a van big enough to transport it all in. A great day out is usually spent there.

            However, I've finally succumbed to taking my back copies of Vogue to school - I can no longer house them - mind you - I've taken out all the pages I couldn't bear to see go and am housing them - just!

            Happy sewing - Janet

      2. User avater
        Aless | | #19

        I live in Australia and have been buying books from Amazon etc for over a year now, because the price of any books in Australia is appalling! Even with the exchange rate plus postage, they are still much cheaper to buy from the US.

        One point I need to make, because of something that happened today....

        I bought Fast Fit at the beginning of this year and because of various things, didn't flip through my copy.(I had read it before through a library loan.)

        Today, when I was checking out a reference, I found quite a few pages that had been over-printed! As I don't remember just who I bought this book from, I'm unable, this late in the day, to attempt to exchange it. Check as you receive them. (I have had this happen before from books bought here and was able to get an exchange).

        A timely warning , I hope.



        1. drmck | | #26

          I love Diane and Lois Erickson at http://www.revisions-ericson.com/ and http://www.designandsew.com/

          They both have very innovative design ideas.

          I like Lois' books Openings and Closings and The Great put On.  These will add that a "wow" to simple clothes.

        2. solosmocker | | #27

          Any of the Sandra Betzina books are great. For embellishment and tweeking your own desings, look for books by Lois Ericson. She's had some great articles in Threads.

          1. User avater
            Aless | | #28


            I thought that I should bring you up to date with the Fast Fit printing problem.

            I decided to email Taunton Press, and explained my problem,especially that I had bought the book late last year but couldn't remember where on Amazon. I politely requested a photocopy of each of the 8 pages that had been over-printed.

            The very next day, I got an email response from TP, telling me that they were sending me a replacement copy immediately, by surface mail.

            Now, I was not expecting that....That's what I call real service,above and beyond.

             I also have a Threads subscription, and have received excellent service if an issue has 'gone missing'(only a couple of times over several years). Well done to Taunton Press !!!

            Aless(in Australia)

          2. jatman | | #29


            That is absolutely amazing.  I'm very impressed with this magazine even though I have not yet received my first issue!  I run to the door like a child every day when the mail gets here.  It's killing me!

            Thank you for telling me about that to begin with - honestly I would never have thought to flip through my books.  And thank you for passing on your TP experience!




          3. User avater
            Aless | | #31


            I bought another book from Amazon last week, and emailed the seller to ask if she could check the book for overprints(explaining the reason). She emailed me within the day to say that she had checked it thoroughly. I'll be doing this each time in future.


          4. lorelle | | #32


            I live in the Sydney region and I find it really hard to find sewing books. I have been ordering some from amazon lately and am surprised that even with currency conversion and paying $8 extra for postal cheque they still work out reasonably well priced. I just wish they would arrive quicker.







          5. User avater
            Aless | | #33

            Hi lorelle,

            I wanted to get some books last Christmas (gifts from my DH and DD) and first rang one of the big stores here in Oz. I was stunned, to put it mildly, at the price quoted,for paperback. The upshot was that I ordered it and 2 other good and highly regarded sewing books(all hard cover) from Amazon, for the cost of that one book locally. AND, they came within 10 days, despite it being nearly Christmas! I was very impressed. I can't even tell you how long it's been since I bought from anyone else. Am awaiting another book right now.

            The big shops have only themselves to blame.

            Aless(in Adelaide)

          6. lorelle | | #34

            I have had the same problem with purchasing books.

            When I found Amazon I was amazed at how many books they had on dressmaking and fashion design. I have 4 on order now and have already received 4 others.

            Some of the books on fashion design I couldnt even find here.

            And the wish list never seems to get any smaller.


          7. User avater
            Aless | | #35

            One good thing about a wish list...my family never have to worry about what to buy me for presents ever again ;-))) . When they ask, I always have something I've just found out about. I have 2 subs (Stitches and Threads) which are both presents, so when they're coming close to finishing, I just ask for them to be renewed .My kids have said they love it--not having to find something I might like ! If they are a bit short of money, I don't mind at all if they all put in for my present, and I always love it !

            Just yesterday I finally got my special-order book from Dymocks (4 1/2 months after my birthday!!!).I'd actually forgotten its full title and that I had paid a deposit at the time($30)!!

      3. Marno | | #22

        You don't say where you are going. That would be helpful when making recommentations.I can thoroughly recommend Alibris for finding books. http://www.alibris.com

        It goes without saying that Sandra Betzina's books are excellent when it comes to dressmaking.

        1. jatman | | #23

          Hello Everyone!

          I want to say thank you all so much for all of the wonderful suggestions.  I am now doing some research to see which ones might help me the most.

          As for some of the other questions/comments: I live in Sweden - so it doesn't get much safer than that, although I have to say I once thought that about home when I lived in the US.  I think the trick is to just be aware and try not to have any regrets!  I've lived here for about a year and have realized a need for some additional books other than those I brought with me.  I blindly bought several books before leaving the US and didn't really open them until I got here.  Of course, of all the books I bought, none of them were any that you all have suggested.  Bummer!

          I also want to thank those of you who gave me other sources for ordering books.  Amazon is really not the only one out there, are they?

          I am ordering and having them shipped to the US.  They will be shipped over here at about the middle of next month so I need to place my order ASAP in case anything is backordered.  The cost of books here is also appalling as is everything else for that matter.  But at least I live in the land of IKEA and can get more book cases when the need arises!

          I also want to say thank you for the suggestion of looking through the books before too much time passes to make sure there are no printing issues.  I never would have thought of that.

          Thank you all again!  I really appreciate the advice!



      4. Ramc | | #30

        I would consider anything by Claire Shaeffer. Also, have you looked through Threads? I've found a number of authors there; it's a great way to see how you feel about an author.

  4. mimi | | #10

    Jatman:  I recommend the Vogue Sewing Book, sometimes you can get it at a library sale at a good price.  I have had mine for over 25 years and still use it.  Also, any of the Susan Khalje books and the Sandra Betzina books on fabric.

    Happy sewing!


  5. MaryinColorado | | #11

    Serger Secrets and Secrets to Successful Sewing.  Also Quilting Arts Magazine.  You also might check under Taunton's books.

  6. TJSEWS | | #14

    My favorite books are:

    Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin.  There is also a companion video for this book available from Threads.  The video is fantastic.  Click on the "Books" tab and you will find both the book and the video. 

    The Vogue Sewing book.  A new edition just came out.  I have the older one but I'm sure the latest one is great.  From what I've read, they've added more info to it so it could only be better.  You can order it from http://www.voguepatterns.com.  It is Item # 720.

    More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina

    1. jatman | | #25

      Hello - I've been trying to locate the Vogue Sewing Book on their website both with and without the item number (720) and cannot seem to do so.  Could anyone give me any additional information that might allow me to find this book?

      Thank you!



      Edited 7/30/2006 11:32 pm ET by jatman

  7. mainestitcher | | #15

    For embellishing:

    Complex Cloth by Jane Dunnewold

    She covers stamping, silk-screening, dyes, discharge, fabric paints, resists, foils and glitters, photocopy transfers, embroidery and beading.

  8. Kilroywashere | | #16

    If you are getting a whole box full of books, I would recommend Rosemary Eichorn's "Fabric Collage" available from Taunton.  Not a basic book, but inspirational if you want to make art-to-wear that is unique. 

  9. dionna | | #17

    Hi if youre going to order a lot of books then a good book source is edward r hamilton books the web site is http://www.edwardrhamilton.com  hope this will help you oh you can also try walmart .com

  10. user-116736 | | #20

    I hope it is not too late for you to get one of my favorite reference books: Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques by Nancy Bedner and JoAnn Pugh-Gannon.  Most importantly I have found the directions accurate and easy to follow. It has basic as well as special techniques--i. e. from different seam finishes and zipper applications to quilting and heirloom techniques.  I am an advanced sewer and have sewn for over 50 years ( I can hardly believe it!) but I still use references when I am doing things.  It was published by Sterling  Publishing company (NY) in 1999. They give a Sterling ISBN 0-8069-6393-X. They do not offer Library of Congress info.

    You did not say what country you are in.  I hope  you are safe and happy.

  11. Marionc032 | | #21

    The three books that I would strongly recommend have already been mentioned by a couple of others so I guess this is just a reinforcement, but my three favourites are:

    "The Vogue Sewing Book." My edition is ancient but it covers everything from basic construction to couture techniques

    "Shirtmaking" by David Coffin. Even though the focus is shirts, the techniques demonstrated are useful for any garment. I especially like David's approach and attitude to sewing.

    "Couture Sewing Techniques" by Claire Schaeffer. Another excellent resource, this book made me really strive to improve my technique.

    Hope ths helps,

  12. isew4kidz | | #24

    I would reccomend Sew Basic it is a book from the editors of Threads magazine. I have the book, and it is excellent. Also, Easy Guide to Serging Fine Fabrics by Kitty Benton.



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